It’s a truism that one of the best things new writers need to remember is to read. A lot. Not to imitate (though some of that is inevitable, especially at the start) but to understand just what writing is, and to see a book through two sets of eyes at once:
- How is the writer able to make me respond this way?
- How can I get the reader to respond, in any way?
In “Write, Read, Rewrite, Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as Needed,” Susan Sontag limns the linkage between the two:
First, because to write is to practice, with particular intensity and attentiveness, the art of reading. You write in order to read what you’ve written and see if it’s O.K. and, since of course it never is, to rewrite it — once, twice, as many times as it takes to get it to be something you can bear to reread. You are your own first, maybe severest, reader. “To write is to sit in judgment on oneself,” Ibsen inscribed on the flyleaf of one of his books. Hard to imagine writing without rereading…